Before I get to this Gretsch G2655T Streamliner Review, I just need to mention that I had never taken much notice of Gretsch guitars. They were around, of course. But they were played by people like Chet Atkins, and country artists back in the day.
I once changed bands, and the guitar player in the new one had a Gretsch Tennessean, an orange one. This was many years ago, and there was no such thing as a Gretsch G2655T Streamliner then.
The first night, ‘it’s different,’ I thought, as we went through this rather lame set. But then we got to the end, and it all changed as he hit Johnny B Goode with it. Halfway through, he had it behind his head. No mean feat because they are not lightweight even though they are semi-hollow.
It played Rock n Roll, and so could he. Brilliant, crisp, and sharp, it had the 50s music pouring out of it. Unfortunately, it ended there. That was his, and my, single allowed foray into the ‘devil’s music’. This was the late 60s, by the way. In some places, it had still not quite caught on.
But in that brief few minutes, all my previous impressions of Gretsch guitars were banished. The next week he bought his ‘dream’ guitar. Another Gretsch, a Country Gent like his hero Chet. It wasn’t the same and didn’t have any of the ‘feel’ of the Tennessean. For me, anyway. And it couldn’t play rock n roll either.
Friedrich Gretsch, a German immigrant, founded Gretsch in New York in 1883. Over the following years, they developed a solid reputation. Today they are known for their electric guitars and, of course, their drums. But also for bass guitars, ukuleles, and acoustic guitars.
They have had some well-known artists other than Chet Atkins use them. George Harrison played a few, as did John Lennon. Brian Jones, from the Rolling Stones, also used one as did Duane Eddy. What about Eddie Cochran and Bo Diddley. And let’s not forget Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. They even made a signature model, the “Gretsch Billy-Bo Jupiter Thunderbird.” Joe Walsh gave Pete Townshend a 6120, which he used on some of the tracks of Quadrophenia. It is quite an impressive list.
The Gretsch company drifted out of the family’s hands for a while but is now back with them. A nice change to see that some grubby conglomerate doesn’t own it. Fender has the distribution rights, though, and guess where they are made these days — Yep, Asia, mainly in Japan, China, and Korea. Fender does, however, make a few higher-end Gretsch’s in the Fender custom shop.
This Streamliner is a Chinese made model. Is it any good? Can it still play a bit of Mr. Berry, as well as Mr. Atkins? Let’s have a closer look and find out…
You have to admit they are trying to stay as close to the real thing as possible. It even has a Bigsby, and you don’t see that very often these days. You get the feeling that the guitar has been designed to try and handle a variety of musical styles. But you also get the feeling that it is still going to be most suited to just a few.
It has fairly distinctive styling that really harks back to a previous existence. That’s not a bad thing, of course. Its simple styling is not unpleasant at all. They have made some big efforts to make it very playable, and the double-cutaway helps whilst also being symbolic of days gone by.
It has the Gretsch look and even has the Bigsby unit, which gives it that extra nudge towards an authentic style. It has plenty of old school about it, but does the addition of some new school features ruin it?
Let’s have a closer look…
No solid wood for the top, back, and sides, it is a Maple laminate. It is finished in what they call a glossy Fairlane Blue. It is a double-cutaway semi-hollow body. There is a center block running through the internals of the body that is made from Spruce. This is the same idea as the Gibson 335, put there in an effort to reduce feedback.
It should not be confused with a junior guitar because of the ‘Center Block Jr’ title, it is sometimes given. It has a full-scale length of 24.75 inches, but the body is scaled down a little in size. That doesn’t make it a junior guitar. It is full size but with a reduction in body size to make it a bit easier to hold.
It also has a slimline body design, which increases the comfort level. If you are making comparisons, then it is smaller in body size to the 335 we mentioned, but not thinner. It is still quite heavy, though, weighing in at 12 pounds.
The top of the guitar has two distinctive ‘F’ holes, which enforce the semi-hollow construction. This is a nice idea and once again takes us back to the 60s guitars they produced. The body has been given a very tasteful two-ply black and white binding. This is seen all-around the guitar and adds a nice finish that is another nudge towards its previous existence.
The body has some vintage feel to it, which is nice. Even the raised scratchplate somehow looks familiar with its Gretsch logo. But unfortunately, the laminated woods instead of solid wood gives it a budget range feel. Gretsch was never supposed to be budget range.
The Neck is made from Nato, which is often called ‘Eastern Mahogany’. Nato has similar looks and characteristics but doesn’t produce the inherent warmth of Mahogany. It is though significantly cheaper and is often used on budget range guitars.
It has a ‘U’ shape styling. This is quite a chunky design and has a roundness to it and high shoulders. It is, therefore, not as easy to play as a ‘C’ shape, for example. You sometimes find these neck designs on Telecasters, and they often are referred to as ‘baseball bat’ necks.
No Rosewood fingerboard either, this guitar has a Laurel fingerboard. There are 22 medium-sized jumbo frets and large block Pearloid inlays all the way up the fingerboard. The neck has a nice binding the full length of the fingerboard.
We can apply the same observations to the neck as we did to the body. Cheaper woods have an effect on the playability and the sound. The neck has been made from cheaper cuts, which is a bit of a shame.
One of the nicest and most authentic parts of this guitar is up at the headstock. It looks exactly as it did. The stylized logo on its black shaped headstock is impressive.
There are six sealed die-cast nickel machine heads that are chrome-plated. The nut width is 1.68 inches and is made from synthetic bone. Really just plastic.
We are treated to a pile of machinery with the anchored Adjusto Matic bridge tailpiece. So big and almost unworldly, it just looks right on this guitar. The whole design is based around the obligatory Bigsby unit. Standard issue on Gretsch guitars of a bygone age.
The hardware is finished off with two humbucker pickups. This isn’t an attempt to make it a screaming rock guitar, as some have thought. Gretsch started moving away from the original single-coil pickups in the 60s and replacing them with the more powerful humbucker.
It changed the sound away from what sounded like a semi-acoustic twangy Telecaster, the sound that Gretsch had built its name on. There are two humbucking Broad’Tron BT-2S pickups. One at the neck and one at the bridge.
They haven’t made the controls over-complicated. They are very much the same as previous models. A three-way toggle switch that will alternate between the neck and the bridge pickup. Position 2 in the center will give you both pickups.
There is a volume control for each pickup, with the second control also operating as a master volume. The other control is the tone control. They are black and match the blue of the body quite well.
How Does It Play?
It plays quite nicely. If you are not used to the rounded neck, it will take some getting used to. However, experienced players will adjust easily. It might not be so easy for a starter or improver, though.
Because of the Thinline style and the slightly smaller body length and width, it is quite comfortable to play. Either seated or standing, it is not too bulky. The double-cutaway allows you to reach the full fingerboard. As we have already said, it is not a lightweight guitar, but players will soon get used to it.
How Does It Sound?
I suppose it depends on what you are expecting. If you want that finger-picking style sound of Mr. Atkins, it isn’t quite there. Perhaps more like the Duane Eddy twang would be a better likeness. It still sounds best when it is used in a country or country-Rock style genre.
Gretsch says, or is it, Fender saying, that it is good for ‘screaming rock.’ Not really, though it can still handle a bit of Johnny B Goode. But I think that is not what they mean.
The Bigsby works well, and with the bridge pick up, it brings back a few memories. Not a classic Gretsch sound but a budget range attempt.
I am painting a bad picture. It isn’t a bad guitar at all. It is just not what it was sound-wise. But then I suppose that also applies to most of the Fender and Gibson ranges as well.
Gretsch G2655T Streamliner Pros & Cons
- Great sounds, if not as authentic as some would like.
- Classic styling.
- Superb fingerboard access.
- Excellent Bigsby vibrato system.
- Very affordable.
- Lower quality materials used in the build.
- Very un-balanced when on a strap.
More Superb Guitar Options
With so many guitars, and so little time! What should you be looking to add to the collection next? Well, you could start by taking a look at our reviews of the Best Resonator Guitar, the Best Blues Guitars, and the Best Hollow Semi Hollow Guitars currently available.
Or if you fancy something from Fender, then how about the Fender American Professional Jazzmaster, the Fender Duo Sonic, or the Fender Player Stratocaster. Or if you’ve got you’re heart set on a Tele and don’t want to spend a fortune, then our in-depth Squire by Fender Classic Telecaster review could well be an interesting read.
What We Think?
At the price point, it is not what you might call a cheap guitar. It is though a reasonable price for a Gretsch. My problem is that is it a Gretsch?
I think sometimes you see a name and you expect certain things. I haven’t heard a Gretsch for many years. Perhaps it wasn’t as good as I thought it was. But then Harrison, Atkins, Eddy, and Townshend, do not play rubbish guitars.
This guitar, in my humble opinion, is not a rock guitar. The semi-hollow body market was always dominated by the 335, Rightly so. The Streamliner hasn’t quite got it. It is a middle of the road or country style guitar. Like the originals were, but without the class.
We see a great name in guitars reduced to being made overseas of cheaper woods and materials. That isn’t Gretsch to me. They were always at the high end. They still should be. I wonder if that is the Fender influence. Let’s do it as cheaply as possible, most won’t notice.
In conclusion, it isn’t a bad guitar. It is probably just about worth its price tag. But if you are expecting the ‘real deal’ Gretsch you will be disappointed, If you can accept a watered-down version, for a watered-down price, you will like it.